Chapter 6

 

       Pazru waited quietly in his quarters for Kyokou to walk around the corner and out of sight before he snuck quietly out into the corridor.  Turning around frequently to make sure that he was not seen, he headed quickly towards the abandoned section of the complex.   It had been nearly six hours since he had fed the child last and Pazru was certain that he would be hungry again.  For nearly the tenth time since he and Kyokou had left the mess hall, Pazru reached down into his tunic pocket to make sure that the ten food bars he had purchased were still there.  His fingers brushed over the grainy, slightly oily surface of the little rectangular masses and, satisfied, he pulled his hand from his pocket and absentmindedly wiped it off on the side of his tunic.  He had opted not to bring any bottles with him this time so as not to attract undue attention to himself from the attendants working in the nursery.  Pazru shivered as he imagined Scleren’s reaction to being told that his favorite student had been sneaking food and other supplies from the nursery.  As long as he was careful, Scleren wouldn’t have the slightest clue what he was planning to do.

 

Pazru slowed as he approached a turn and quickly glanced around the corner to make sure that no one was in the hallway before continuing on his way.  He repeated the same process each corner he came to; the child’s as well as his safety depended on it.  Voices echoed from a corridor a little ways ahead and Pazru quickly pressed himself up against the nearest door panel, hoping that he wouldn’t be seen.  The voices faded away into the distance and Pazru resumed his path. 

 

He still couldn’t quite believe how easily Kyokou had agreed to help him.  After the rotten run of luck he had had earlier today, he had expected Kyokou to laugh at his request as if it were some absurd sort of joke.  The lie about the girl on Frieza #32 had definitely been the kicker—if it meant that he could help Pazru get some action, Kyokou would probably waltz around naked in front of King Vegeta himself.  He shook his head and chuckled quietly as he imagined the expression on the king’s face.  No matter how annoying Kyokou could be, he was always there for his friends when they needed him.  Pazru promised himself that if everything worked out okay he would buy Kyokou dinner for the rest of his life. 

 

The corridors grew dimmer and narrower as he entered the deserted regions of the complex.  Without any difficulty whatsoever, Pazru navigated his way back to the grime-streaked door panel, trying not to touch the cold, lumpy brick walls coated with green-gray slime.  He could hear the child’s petulant cries coming from inside and he quickly entered the room, making sure that no one had seen him.  The panel hissed shut behind him, and Pazru turned his attention to the Saiyan infant, who was lying on his back wailing.  The tall, orange-skinned young man pushed the small, glowing button on the side of the bassinet.  Hearing the hum of the lid rising, the child gave an excited growl, rolled over onto his hands and knees, and eagerly scampered over to the smiling young man who stood over him.  Tears still drying on his face, the infant grabbed handfuls of Pazru’s tunic in his little fists and pulled himself into a standing position.  His tiny nostrils widened as they caught the scent of the food bars wafting from Pazru’s pocket and he gave an impatient cry. 

 

Pleased with the child’s reaction to his presence, Pazru pulled open the pocket bearing the food bars.  The infant eagerly reached inside and fished out one of the bars.  He paused and peered up into Pazru’s face for a moment before stuffing it into his mouth greedily.  Tail waving happily behind him, the child plopped onto his rear and concentrated on chewing and swallowing the small, greasy slab before reaching for another.  Pazru kneeled next to the bassinet and watched the tiny Saiyan eat with wonder.  With one long-fingered hand, he gently pushed the child’s soft bangs off of his forehead.  The child stiffened momentarily and regarded him suspiciously with one large black eye.  Satisfied that the tall, green-haired man smiling pleasantly at him didn’t want to do him any harm, the child shrugged his shoulders and gave a contented grunt from behind the mass of food in his mouth.  He swallowed noisily, pushed himself onto his feet, tail flung out wide for balance, and reached for the pocket of Pazru’s tunic.  The child gave a startled cry when he realized that his food was now out of reach below the bassinet.  Pazru chuckled, reached into his pocket, and pulled out another food bar.  The infant immediately leaned forward and snatched it from his fingers.

 

It was then that Pazru noticed the horrible smell and the large smears of fecal matter, among other unidentifiable substances, covering the infant’s body.  The padding in the bassinet was stained dark and reeked of urine and feces.  Pazru’s nose wrinkled in revulsion as he stared at the mess and he glanced around the room, searching for a sink or tub of some sort.  A large industrial sink was set against the wall on the far side of the room and Pazru rose to his feet and walked over to it.  Like the rest of the small room, the sink was caked with grime and unidentifiable muck.  Pazru grimaced and turned the handle of the faucet, which gave a loud screech in protest.  No water came out of the spigot, and Pazru feared for a moment that it had been shut off from this area of the complex.  The pipes behind the wall suddenly creaked and a stream of cool, clean water began to pour from the spigot.  Pazru sighed in relief and held his hand underneath the faucet until he felt the water grow warm.  Finding a small brush and a half-empty bottle of soap on the counter near the sink, he rolled up the sleeves of his tunic and began to diligently scrub away the dirt.  As thick as it was, the years of acquired muck and grime coating the sink washed away easily, revealing the dull, scratched metal beneath.  Finally satisfied that it was clean, Pazru found a plug and stopped up the sink.  As it filled, he began to search the cupboards for towels.  As luck would have it, he found a whole stack of fairly clean, undamaged towels along with a large ratty sponge in the back of the first cupboard he opened.  He grabbed one of the faded gray towels, shook it furiously to free it of dust, and set it and the sponge next to the sink, which was now nearly half-full.  He shut off the faucet, which gave another rusty scream of protest and turned to get the child. 

 

The bassinet was empty.  “Oh please not again,” Pazru thought with some trepidation as he began to scan the room for the child.  There was a small tug on his left trouser leg.  Pazru looked down to find the Saiyan infant sitting at his feet smiling mischievously.  The child reached upwards with grasping fingers and whined in hunger.  “That’s the last time I ever take my eyes off of you,” Pazru said with a smile as he reached down and lifted the filthy infant up into the air, holding him at arms-length.  He turned and gently lowered the infant into the sink.  The child’s lower lip immediately began to shake as he was lowered into this strange rippling substance and he clutched Pazru’s arms tightly.  Pazru kept his hands on the child for reassurance and let him become accustomed to the water, which nearly came up to his armpits.  The child calmed down almost immediately and Pazru removed one of his hands from the water and went to grab the soap. 

 

All of a sudden, the tiny Saiyan gave an angry shriek and bit deeply into Pazru’s other arm.  The young man cried out in pain and looked down at the perturbed infant, who had managed, using Pazru’s arm for support, to rise to his feet.  He scowled at Pazru and reached upwards, growling fiercely.  “What do you…oh, I see,” Pazru mumbled to himself.  He pulled another food bar from his pocket and handed it to the child, who greedily took it from him and sat back down in the water with a small splash. 

 

Pazru sighed resignedly, rubbed at his injured arm, and grabbed the bottle of soap sitting nearby on the counter.  He squirted a generous amount of the purple gel onto the child’s head and began to massage it through his hair.  Oblivious to the mass of bubbles forming on top of his head, the child continued to devour the now soaked food bar.  Pazru cupped one hand over the infant’s forehead to shield his eyes and began to scoop water onto the child’s head to wash away the soapsuds.  Sighing in disgust as he watched the dirty froth flow into the sink, Pazru ran his hands through the spiky mass of hair to squeegee any excess dirt and water from his scalp. 

 

Grabbing the sponge from the counter, he now concentrated on cleaning the child’s body.  He started with the infant’s neck and moved down to his back, being careful not to accidentally pull or pinch the child’s tail in the process.  He then cupped the sponge around the base of the tail and moved slowly upwards towards the tip, scrubbing the soft brown fur as gently as possible.  The child growled as he felt his tail being handled but made no move to snap at Pazru again.  The young man, now up to his elbows in frothy soapsuds, moved the sponge to the front of the child’s body and began to wipe the smears of waste and dirt from his belly. 

 

Having finished the food bar sometime ago, the child giggled as the soft sponge tickled his belly and began to slap at the water with his hands, sending a great deal of warm water and a flurry of soap bubbles into the air.  Pazru laughed quietly as he watched one of the pearly bubbles alight on the child’s nose.  The tiny Saiyan crowed in delight and began to eagerly throw masses of bubbles into the air, trying to catch them with his chubby little hands.  A dense cloud of bubbles flew in his direction and Pazru blew them back towards the infant, who giggled and tried to ward the bubbles away from his face.  Humming to himself quietly, Pazru gently began to scrub the child’s arms, stopping every now and then to tickle his belly.  He used a small corner of the sponge to wipe the dirt away from the child’s face and from behind each of his ears. Pazru then slid one hand beneath the child and lifted him slightly so as to be able to reach the child’s legs, buttocks, and groin, which were unsurprisingly the filthiest areas of his body. 

 

Pazru gave the child a good look over to make sure he was clean, becoming soaked himself in the process, and lifted the child from the water and onto the towel.  The infant cried out at being separated from this strange new plaything and was given a food bar in compensation.  Pazru gently toweled the child dry, again being careful not to harm the child’s tail.  He rubbed the towel briskly over the child’s head, receiving a series of muffled giggles for his efforts, and then ran his fingers through the thick mass of hair to untangle any knots that had formed there.  Pazru then wrapped the towel around the child’s head and body, leaving his face and hands uncovered so that he could still eat. 

 

Cooing infant cradled comfortably in his arms, Pazru headed back to the bassinet and groaned when he saw the soiled bedding.  He carefully set the infant on the floor beside the bassinet, and began to detach the filthy padding from the smooth metal pan beneath.  Turning his to the side slightly to avoid the hideous odors emanating from the heavy lining, he stuffed the padding into a small incinerator that was situated in the wall opposite the door panel and started the machine.  Pazru, not noticing that the child had managed to worm his way out of the soft warm towel wrapped around him, then began to search the cupboards for new padding but was only able to come up with a few ratty, mildewed blankets.  Sighing, he tossed the blankets in the now empty incinerator and punched in the sequence codes again.  The blankets went up in flames behind the clear glass panel and the child, who had been scurrying across the floor after Pazru, paused to watch the tongues of flame consume the tattered blankets.  Tail waving slowly back and forth in the air behind him, he cocked his head to the side and stared with wonder at the raging fire behind the glass. 

 

Pazru turned and, making sure not to step on the infant, walked over to the cabinet near the sink and pulled out the remaining three towels.  Yawning, he shook the dust out of each and laid them out in the bassinet, knowing that the child would rearrange them as he saw fit.  Plucking the child from the floor in front of the incinerator, Pazru gently set him down in the bassinet and let him fish another food bar from his tunic pocket.  He then kneeled on the ground next to the bassinet and let the child finish off the remaining five bars. 

 

The Saiyan infant swallowed the last bite of the last food bar, gave a loud yawn, and curled into a little ball in the center of the bassinet, twisting the dull gray towels into a little nest around him.  Pazru yawned in response and draped an end of one of the soft towels over his tiny body.  The child gave a contented sigh and slowly closed his eyes.  Brushing an errant strand of hair from the sleeping child’s face, Pazru smiled, pressed the small glowing button on the side of the bassinet, and made sure the lid closed securely around the sleeping infant.  He turned to the small computer that was mounted to the floor near the bassinet and made sure that the temperature, airflow, and humidity inside the bassinet were suitable for the infant. 

 

Yawning once more, Pazru slowly stood up and stretched.  Pulling off his soggy, dirt smeared tunic as he walked, he began to head towards the door panel but tripped over the child’s wet discarded towel that lay on floor near the door panel.  Groaning wearily, Pazru snatched it from the ground and hung it up to dry from an old rack that hung above the sink.  He then proceeded to the door panel, checked the bassinet once more to make sure that the lid was secure, and finally left the dimly lit room in search of his own quarters and bed.

 

*           *           *

 

Noticing Scleren’s icy blue eyes turned in his direction, Pazru stifled a yawn with one tightly gloved hand and returned to the task at hand: cleaning and sterilizing each and every bottle, instrument, and machine in the main delivery room.   Pazru reached over and dipped the rag he had been using into the small brown bucket sitting on the counter to his right, blinking back tears as the sharp, biting fumes of the cleaning solution assailed his nose.  As he idly swished the rag around inside the bucket the murky purple liquid sloshed back and forth, threatening to spill over the sides.

 

Pazru sighed wearily as he stared at his reflection wavering in the cloudy liquid.  His face was haggard; large amber eyes dim and ringed with dark orangey-brown circles that contrasted sharply with the pale gaunt flesh stretching beneath them.  “Forget torture and execution, I’m going to die just trying to take care of this kid along with all of my other duties,” he thought and groaned as he studied his worn features.  He had had little sleep during the past two and half weeks, choosing to spend the time caring for the child and finalizing the last few bits and pieces of his plan.  His studies had slipped in the process, and now he was being punished for it.  Normally punishment for forgetting to complete an assignment—a rare occurrence for Pazru—involved only a harsh reprimand from Scleren and maybe a few extra duties to perform.  Somehow, though, Scleren had gotten wind of Pazru’s appearance in the mess hall with Kyokou and had consequently added even more tasks as punishment for deliberately disobeying his orders. 

 

Pazru sighed audibly as he ran over the long list of tasks in his head yet again.  After he had finished in the delivery room he was to head over to the nursery, clean and sterilize every piece of equipment there, and give Kakarot—who apparently had been considerably cranky as of late—a bath.  Then, he was to go to the regen tank room and do whatever Plenthor and Malacca asked.  After that was over he would be finished with all of his chores and would be free to go back to his quarters and tackle the mountain of assignments—both old and new—waiting for him there.  Considering that he would still have to make time to sneak off and feed the nameless Saiyan infant hidden in the bowels of the complex, Pazru figured that he probably would not be getting a decent night’s sleep for quite a while.  

 

Scleren, who was seated across the room at the large computer panel entering various bits of data, cleared his throat warningly when he noticed his young student staring vacantly into the small container of cleaning solution.  Pazru awoke with a start, nearly knocking the bucket and a large cluster of bottles drying nearby to the floor.  Looking sheepish, he mumbled an apology, squeezed the excess fluid from the rag, ignoring the throbbing joints in his hands and wrists, and began to vigorously scrub the outside of the large flask that sat on the cloth-draped tray in front of him.  Scleren turned back to the flashing screen before him and returned to his work, shaking his head and smiling tenderly as he did so.

 

Scleren’s smile pierced Pazru’s heart like an arrow, and the young man desperately tried to force back the wave of guilt that washed over him.  He felt that over these past few weeks he had somehow turned into a completely different person, one whom he was not particularly proud of.  It seemed that all he did now was lie: to Scleren, the man who was almost like a father to him; to Plenthor and Malacca; even to Kyokou, his best friend.  And the list went on from there; Pazru had difficulty trying to recall who he hadn’t lied to in the complex since this business with the Saiyan infant had cropped up. Yet, if given the chance to live this past week over again, Pazru knew without a doubt that he would have made the same choices.  The child’s fate was important to him, so important that it ranked far above anything and/or anyone else, including himself, and he would not have had it any other way. 

 

He lifted the flask and slowly turned it around in front of his eyes to check for any spots or stains that he had missed.  His reflection wavered on the smooth, clean surface and he picked up the cloth lying in the tray and began to wipe away the filmy soapsuds on the outside of the flask.  Now that he thought about it, he hadn’t become some sort of monster.  He was still good old Pazru, with an emphasis on the “good.”  The corners of his mouth turned up in a weak smile.  “Lack of sleep, that’s all that’s wrong with me,” he thought.  “When I’m this tired everything seems to be going poorly.”  He knew in his heart that he was doing the right thing.  No child, Saiyan or otherwise, should have to die for any reason, and Lord Frieza had no right to demand such a sacrifice.

 

He took a step back and pulled the sterilizing drawer out from the counter.  He upended the clean flask, secured it to the rack submerged deep inside, and slowly closed the drawer, being careful not to let any of the incandescent orange fluid inside slosh out onto the floor.  Pazru then returned his attention to the hundreds of multi-colored bottles of all shapes and sizes that covered the broad countertop in front of him.  Sighing, he picked up a small egg-shaped dish and wearily picked up his cleaning rag. 

 

Scleren frowned as he watched his student work diligently at the tasks he had set him to.  He didn’t like punishing Pazru like this, especially when he looked so ill, but Pazru had to learn how to follow orders.  He had received quite a blow on the head from Toma a few weeks back, and from the looks of him it didn’t appear that he had quite recovered from it yet.  Scleren’s brow furrowed as he studied the pale orange scar stretching across the left side of Pazru’s forehead, just above the eyebrow.  He hoped with all his heart that there wasn’t something else, something more serious, that was happening to Pazru besides the concussion.  The last time he had examined him the boy had seemed a little dazed but healthy in general; however, the dark circles that had appeared so suddenly beneath Pazru’s eyes troubled him. 

 

Pazru stood up and placed the clean dish in the sterilizing drawer.  The bright light coming from the large lamp standing in the corner behind him shone through his tunic as he stood.  He’s been losing too much weight,” Scleren thought concernedly.  He slowly began to tap his lower lip in consternation with one gnarled blue finger.  He shrugged resignedly.  “Well at least he’s forgotten the whole business about the Saiyan infant, from the looks of him he certainly doesn’t need any more stress placed on him.”  Feeling Scleren’s gaze, Pazru looked up and gave him a repentant smile, but the smile did nothing to improve his gaunt features. 

 

Scleren sighed, returned the smile, and turned back to the data he was punching into the computer, looking to the pile of inventory sheets stacked in his lap every now and then to make sure that he was entering the correct numbers.  He enjoyed most aspects of his job.  Inventory was not one of them.  He was a doctor, and a damned good one at that; he shouldn’t have to waste his precious time poring through mundane lists of supplies that sometimes took up hundreds of pages.  He growled quietly in frustration, flipped the page, and began to enter the next long list of numbers into the database, his fingers moving rapidly over the keys embedded in the console. 

 

Policy was policy, though.  He was wise enough to realize what the consequences would be if he opted not to perform this task.  “Maybe Pazru can…,” Scleren glanced hopefully up at the young man, who was carefully removing glassware from the sterilizing drawer and suspending them on the drying racks hanging on the wall beside him.  “No, no.  The boy has enough on his plate as it is.  Just remember, you only have to do this once a month, no more no less. ”  He pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration and flipped to the next page, letting his eyes scroll through the list.  They stopped three-quarters of the way down at the listing for Day 247, Year 987 Vegetasei—almost three weeks ago.  If the numbers were correct, the nursery had come up short for several items—blankets, bassinet padding, towels, bottles, washcloths, and teething rings—that day, a nearly impossible occurrence; Scleren carefully monitored his domain of the med-center and always conducted careful background checks on all of his staff members.  After the Eki incident five years ago it had been in his patients’—as well as his own—best interests to do so. 

 

Scleren rubbed at his eyes with one deeply lined palm and looked back down at the numbers recorded on the bottom half of the page.  It had to be a mistake.  Only his workers were allowed in the nursery, the computerized locking panels assured that, so the entries on the page must be in error.  “When I find out who screwed this up I’ll box their ears,” he thought crossly. He scanned the rest of that day’s inventory as well as those for the following week.  He carefully went through each of the words and numbers recorded onto the crisp white sheets and blinked a few times to make sure that what he was seeing was really there.  Swallowing nervously, he went through the rest of the inventory up to the current date.  There was no mistaking it; someone had been stealing from the nursery supply room.

 

Massaging his brow in mild distress, Scleren set the stack of inventory papers aside and leaned back in his seat.  “How is it possible?” he thought.  “As much as I want to not believe it, this has to be the work of one of my staff members, they’re the only ones who would have access to the supply room in the nursery.” 

 

“Damn.”  He hunched over and rested his forehead on his steepled fingers.  Pazru looked up from the small green-tinted bottle he was washing, a questioning look in his eyes. 

 

“Something wrong, Scleren?” he asked concernedly.  A little hesitantly he added, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

 

“No, Pazru, it’s nothing,” Scleren replied after a short pause.  He glanced up at the young man and smiled warmly.  “Besides, do you really want to have any more things to do?”  Pazru looked down at the glassware scattered across the counter’s surface, smiled, and shook his head slowly from side to side.  “That’s what I thought.”  Scleren’s hands moved to the console and closed the inventory report.  The screen dimmed and the system gave once last soft bloop before shutting down completely.  He rose slowly from his seat and groaned, his hands going immediately to the small of his back.  “Pazru, I’m going down to the nursery for a bit.” Just as he was stepping out of the room he added with a warning smile, “Don’t get the idea that you can slack off while I’m gone.  I expect to see all of that glassware sparkling clean on the drying rack when I get back.”  Pazru nodded in compliance and began to scrub even more vigorously.

 

*           *           *

 

Scleren’s first stop was the nursery.  Seemingly unaffected by Kakarot’s piercing cries, he strode determinedly back to the private nursery, where the supply room was located.  The attendant on duty was reclining in a small chair situated across from the door panel, his arms crossed behind his head and his feet setting on top of one of the counters.  At his supervisor’s entrance he hastily stood up, managing to fall out of the chair in the process, and gave Scleren a cordial—if not strained—greeting.  He began to busy himself about the small room, one fearful eye riveted on the grim-faced doctor. 

 

Scleren forced a warm smile and placed his hand on the young man’s shoulder.  “Hello there.”  The attendant tensed noticeably and turned, crimson eyes wide with fear and an apprehensive smile plastered on his face.  Scleren continued, “You haven’t seen anything strange going on in here lately, have you?”  The man shook his head slowly and gulped.  Seeing the attendant’s discomfort, Scleren gave him a reassuring smile.  “I apologize for frightening you like that.  What I meant to say was: Have you seen anybody without nursery clearance entering the supply room?”  The attendant shook his head again, not looking the least bit reassured. 

 

“I was afraid you would say that.”  The doctor clapped the alarmed young man on the back and strode over to the supply cabinet.  After the narrow door panel slid open he stepped inside the small room and scanned the long shelves lining each of the walls, making a mental count of the items that his lists indicated were being taken.  He sighed.  There was no mistake in the paperwork; someone was definitely stealing from the nursery’s supply room.  He left the room and walked back over to the attendant, who was refolding all of the towels in the cabinet near the small tub in the far corner of the room.

 

“Sorry to interrupt your duties,” he said with just a hint of sarcasm, “but could you go and bring back one of the computer technicians for me?” The attendant nodded crisply in assent, dropped the towel he was folding, and darted out of the door. 

 

He returned quickly, panting heavily, a thin film of sweat covering his brow.  He was alone. “Th-they say…palace…something going on…all gone,” he panted.  Scleren, his face a mask of dismay and confusion rose from his seat and walked over to the young man, who was leaning against one of the walls, sweat pouring off of his body and dripping onto the smooth, clean floor.

 

“What’s going on?” the doctor asked skeptically.  The exhausted attendant took a deep breath to steady himself and forced himself to speak as slowly and clearly as possible.

 

“They. Can’t. Come.”

 

“And why is that?”

 

“Palace.”

 

Looking exasperated, Scleren waved his hands dismissively in the air and snapped, “Yes, yes, yes.  You mentioned the palace earlier.  What’s going on there that’s so important that the control room can’t spare one computer technician?”

 

“King Vegeta…is going to…visit Lord Frieza…he wants…son back,” the attendant managed to utter.  Scleren gave another impatient wave of his arms and the young man continued, “He has gathered many…warriors…needs lots of pods…techni—“

 

“And he needs the technicians to program the coordinates of Lord Frieza’s ship into the pods.”  Scleren sighed.  “That’s alright, I understand now.”  He gestured towards the attendant who was shivering now that the sweat covering his body was beginning to dry.  “I want you to go back to the control room and request that a computer technician be sent here as soon as it is possible.  I want a list of every person who has entered the supply room during this past month.  Can you remember that?” 

 

The young man, eyes widening in numb shock, nodded and stumbled in the direction of the door.  Scleren, face softening, grabbed his arm gently and led him to a chair. 

 

“Rest first.  I’m guessing that there won’t be any technicians available for at least two or three hours, so there is no need for you to rush back to the control room right now.”  The attendant looked gratefully up at Scleren and slumped down in the chair in relief, exhaling noisily as he did so.  The old doctor patted his shoulder tenderly and exited the private nursery, stopping momentarily in the main room to watch Kakarot crawl and totter about in his bassinet before leaving. 

 

Scleren walked briskly towards the regeneration tank room, his footfalls echoing in the silent halls of the med center.  This was big.  It was common knowledge that Frieza kept the young prince nearby, as insurance against a Saiyan uprising and also because the boy was extremely powerful.  Scleren had even heard tell that Prince Vegeta had the potential to become the first Super Saiyan in over a thousand years (he was fairly certain that Frieza intended to do away with the five-year-old Saiyan before he had a chance to attain the legendary power, though).  That the king himself, in the company of the best of the first-class Saiyan warriors, was going to Frieza unannounced to take back his son meant nothing less than war itself.  Scleren turned down a wide, brightly lit corridor and rubbed at his temple, troubled.  He, all of the people in the complex, the Saiyans, and every other living thing on Vegetasei were soon going to be in for some very hard times.  

 

*           *           *

      

Plenthor sighed as he stared up at Bardock’s still form.  He had spent nearly three weeks in the regeneration tank with no sign of regaining consciousness.  The Saiyan’s brainwaves had not reverted back to normal, and it was this that concerned Plenthor most; however, after comparing the intensity of Bardock’s brainwaves over a spread of five days, the doctor had been able to discern a distinctive pattern, which he believed might be the key to reviving Bardock.  Every few hours, there was a sharp spike in the Saiyan’s brainwaves.  Also interesting was that whenever one of these spikes occurred Bardock’s heart and respiratory rates showed a considerable increase nearing that of a normal, waking reading.  It was possible that one of those spikes would awaken him; however Plenthor had little way of knowing when and if this would occur.  With a little bit more study, Plenthor believed that he could find a way of manipulating Bardock’s brainwaves to spike in hopes of “shocking” the Saiyan awake.  Plenthor’s lips thinned as he pressed them together in a grim smile.  “It’s risky, but I can’t let him just waste away in there,” he thought. 

 

At the hiss of the door panel opening, Plenthor turned from the regen tank in the center of the room, looking tense.  When he saw it was Scleren he relaxed and greeted his fellow doctor warmly, if not a trifle unenthusiastically.  Malacca gave Scleren a quick nod in welcome and returned to the computer panel he was hunched over.  Scleren joined Plenthor by the tank, glanced quickly at the figure floating inside, and clucked sympathetically.

 

“Bardock.  What will he get into next?” he mumbled.

 

“Nothing, if he never manages to pull out of this,” Plenthor replied grimly.  Scleren turned to the other man, one blue-white eyebrow rising ever so slightly in interest.

 

“Really.  He seems to be in good physical condition…is there some mental disturbance?”

 

 Plenthor nodded slowly, eyes never leaving the still form of his patient. 

 

“That must have been some battle.”

 

“You’d be surprised,” he replied curtly, a subtle way of telling Scleren to drop the subject.  

 

“I saw Toma bringing him in,” Scleren remarked, ignoring the warning tone in the other doctor’s voice.  “He clipped Pazru a good blow to the head and nearly got me t—“

 

“Scleren, do you have a reason for being here?” Plenthor snapped.  His face immediately softened and he turned towards Scleren, placing a hand on the other man’s arm.  “I apologize for my harsh words, old friend.  I’m very concerned about Bardock, that’s all.”

 

“He sustained serious damage to his mind then?” Scleren asked, unruffled by Plenthor’s harsh words.

 

“Unusual is a better term for the injury Bardock suffered.”  Scleren’s eyebrows rose, silently asking the other doctor to continue.  “I have no clue as to how to treat him other than to keep him in the regen tank in hopes that he may awake,” he said, purposely neglecting to mention his discovery about the brainwave spikes and his plans to revive the Saiyan.  What he was planning on doing was very unorthodox, so the less Scleren and Malacca knew, the better.

 

“And if that doesn’t happen?”  Plenthor’s lips pressed tightly together and he looked away.

 

“So what brings you here, Scleren?” he asked with a false cheeriness, changing the subject.  The other man sighed and rubbed at the back of his neck, first lifting his mane of blue-white hair—loose from the tight topknot worn only when he was on call—out of the way.

 

“Nothing pleasant, I’m sorry to say.”  This time it was Plenthor’s turn to raise a questioning eyebrow.  “Have you completed this month’s supply inventory report yet, Plenthor?”

 

“Yes, I just submitted it an hour ago,” his eyes narrowed in confusion, “why?”

 

“Did you notice anything unusual?”

 

“No.”  Scleren exhaled noisily and shut his eyes tightly, trying not to believe that it was one of his own who was raiding the supply cabinet.  Plenthor, one hand straying to tug at one of his pointed ears, began to ask him what he was talking about, but Scleren cut him off.

 

“Someone has been stealing from the supply room in the nursery.”

 

“Oh I see,” Plenthor said quietly.  “You afraid that the thief is part of your own staff?”

 

“I’m not afraid, I know that one of my staff members is responsible.” Scleren’s voice was tired and dull.  “Who else would have the access codes to the nursery?”  The other doctor nodded respectfully and clasped his hands behind his back.

 

“Any clue as to whom?”

 

“No.  I’m have requested that a technician be sent to the nursery at once to search through the locking panel records and bring up a list of everyone who has entered the supply room in the past month.”

 

Plenthor nodded once in agreement.  “You hoping to catch the thief through their access code?  A good plan, but what if the thief isn’t a member of your staff but has in their possession one of your staff member’s access codes?  What then, Scleren?”

 

Scleren shook his head in negation.  “No.  None of my staff have reported seeing anyone unusual in the nursery.  As much as I hate to admit it myself, the thief has to be one of my people.”  The other doctor nodded silently as he mulled this last statement over.  He clasped one of Scleren’s shoulders and squeezed it in silent reassurance.

 

“So what did the computer technician find?”

 

“Nothing.  None have been able to come to the nursery yet.”

 

“What?”  Plenthor’s bushy eyebrows drew together in confusion then smoothed as realization hit.  “Oh yes, right, they’re at the palace programming the pods for the king’s little surprise visit for Frieza.”  Scleren nodded numbly. 

 

“Nothing will come of it but trouble.”

 

“You may be right.  Have you placed your request to leave the planet, yet, Scleren?”

 

“No, I have one more patient.  In fact it happens to be Bardock’s youngest child, Kakarot.  He’s scheduled to leave on his first mission in six days.  I’m not going to even think about leaving until his pod is launched. And you, old friend?”

 

“That’s interesting.  Kakarot was born (now what was it?) a month ago or thereabouts.  He should have been sent on his first mission weeks ago.”  Plenthor skillfully avoided answering Scleren’s question with a query of his own.  “What has been holding up his departure?”

 

“Paperwork,” Scleren answered, which was partly the truth.  In incidences of twins there was always a delay before the surviving child would be sent on his or her first mission.  It took much longer for the necessary paperwork confirming the child’s identity to process.  To begin with, the official papers could not be sent for processing until the death of the weaker twin was confirmed.  Scleren had received verification of that only last week and had just completed and sent Kakarot’s credentials in a few days ago.  During that time eight Saiyan infants had been born and sent on their first planet clearings. This made Kakarot the only baby left in the nursery, and hence, the last to leave.  Since Saiyan females only entered into heat at particular times of the year and period of gestation was roundabouts of six months, Scleren deemed that it would be unlikely that any more females would be giving birth, since they would soon be entering heat again.  Therefore, he was certain that after Kakarot left the planet he would be free to go also.

 

  “Plenthor, Plenthor,” Scleren mumbled, chuckling quietly, “you were never very good at hiding the truth, especially from me, so tell me what is preventing your departure?”  He had a pretty good idea of what was holding back the other doctor, but didn’t want to think of the possible implications of his friend’s rash—yet reasonable (from a doctor’s point of view, at least)—decision.

 

Plenthor stood in silence.  He gazed up at Bardock’s features—scowling even in the most deepest of sleeps—and the muscles of his jaw clenched in determination.  “You know very well what is keeping me from leaving, old friend.”

 

“Why he means so much to you that you would throw away your own life for the impossibly slim chance that he will awaken is incomprehensible to me, Plenthor,” Scleren replied, sighing. 

 

Incomprehensible to you?”  Plenthor’s jaw shook in silent anger.  “How dare you have the right to call yourself a doctor!” 

 

Malacca, ears perking up at the angry voice of his supervisor and comrade, pivoted his seat so that he faced the two arguing doctors.

 

“Plenthor,” Scleren interjected softly, “one of the virtues I attribute to my profession is that of wisdom.” He turned toward his friend, slate-gray eyes blazing in concern and frustration. “Tell me, how wise is it to waste your efforts trying to save the life of another if your life is forfeited in the process?” 

 

The other doctor shut his eyes tightly and exhaled noisily in disgust.  “Wasted effort.  How can you be so certain that Bardock will die?”

 

“You have no clue what is wrong with him or how to treat him.”

 

“Incorrect.”

 

Scleren sighed and rubbed at his clenched brow.  “Even so, unless by some miracle King Vegeta succeeds, you will probably die.  You have the potential to save so many lives, yet you would give it all away for one Saiyan, a man who has murdered countless innocent souls.”

 

“My job is not to determine who should live or die but to do everything in my power to ensure that life will be sustained.  You say that I should leave Vegetasei now.  That I should forget Bardock’s plight and look to my own safety.” He stared intently at Scleren, a pained expression on his face.  Plenthor shook his head slowly from side to side in denouncement of Scleren’s words.  “I would be nothing less than a murderer myself if I left Vegetasei and allowed Bardock to die.  Therefore I must stay until I have done everything in my power to revive him.  That, and nothing less is what a doctor, a good doctor, would do.  Is that not the wisdom you proclaim all in our profession should possess? Tell me Scleren, what kind of doctor are you?”

 

Scleren made no move to answer.  He stared blankly off into space, deep in his own thoughts.   There was a strained pause during which Malacca was the only person who moved, head turning from Plenthor to Scleren and back to Plenthor again.  It was Plenthor who finally broke the silence. 

 

“It appears that we are at odds on this issue, old friend.”  His dark eyes studied the stubborn set of Scleren’s jaw and he sighed resignedly.  “It will do neither of us any good to continue arguing over it.  I suggest that we move on and forget our harsh words to each other.”  He stuck out his right hand, the corners of his mouth turning up in an affable grin. 

 

Still not meeting Plenthor’s concerned eyes, Scleren nodded almost imperceptibly.  “A good idea, old friend.” He grabbed the other doctor’s proffered hand in one of his own and gave it a brisk shake.  Scleren, eyes still a distant and stormy gray, gave a poor facsimile of Plenthor’s smile.  “I thank you for your time, but I feel that it’s necessary for me to leave now.  I should be heading to the nursery and seeing if any technicians have arrived yet.”  He turned so that his back was to Plenthor and began to walk stiffly out of the room. 

 

Plenthor hesitated only for a few seconds before calling out to his friend.  “Scleren,” he said amiably, “I’ll send Malacca over to the nursery to access the entrance history of the supply room as soon as he is finished running these tests for me.”  Malacca glanced at Plenthor at the mention of his name and then back at Scleren to see his response.

 

The other man looked down at the floor a moment and then said, “I would greatly appreciate that.”  He lifted his hand in parting and inclined his head to the doctor and his scaly technician.  “Good day, Plenthor. Malacca.” 

 

Plenthor sighed after watching the panel shut behind Scleren. He shook his head sadly and then turned back to the regeneration tank, studying Bardock’s stern and handsome features.  “Why is my old and dear friend acting so strangely?” he silently queried his patient.  A plume of bubbles spiraled from the oxygen mask covering Bardock’s mouth and nose and gurgled to the surface of the tank, but the Saiyan didn’t reply.

 

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